It looks as if the Kevin Smith era is over for the Detroit Lions.
Second-year running back Mikel Leshoure got the start for the Lions Sunday and rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown. If he is still available in your fantasy league is the consensus No. 1 pick-up going into Week 4.
Leshoure also showed an ability to catch the ball with four receptions for 34 yards, so that only adds to his value. Granted, one game does not a fantasy star make, but it has been painfully obvious that the Detroit brain trust has been looking to upgrade at the RB position since the start of the season.
As long as Leshoure’s surgically repaired knee holds up (he missed all of his rookie season with an ACL tear), he appears to be the player the Lions will roll with. His next game could be a bit tougher as he goes against Minnesota’s No. 1-ranked run defense.
Four other backs to consider this week if they are available are Ryan Williams of Arizona (he finally stopped whining about last season’s knee surgery and had a decent game), Tashard Choice of Buffalo (who may be the starter for at least the next week or two due to injuries to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller) Miami’s Daniel Thomas (who is the likely fill-in for an injured Reggie Bush) and Denver’s Ronnie Hillman (may start if Willis McGahee’s chest doesn’t heal up).
Another back to keep an eye on is Jacquizz Rodgers of Atlanta. He finally started getting some decent work last Sunday and may be the future for the Falcons. How soon that future will arrive is unknown.
Since most fantasy footballers who read this notebook hail from Minnesota, it’s not likely that the Vikings’ Jerome Simpson is available in your league. On the off chance he is, he should be your No. target among receivers for pick-up this week.
Although Simpson has yet to play a game, his quarterback Christian Ponder took a big step forward on Sunday. Simpson won’t be the savior but without any other deep threats on the team, he will get his share of looks.
Two other receivers to consider are the New York Giants’ Ramses Barden and Cincinnati’s Andrew Hawkins. Barden caught nine passes for 138 yards against Carolina last week. He may be only a short-term fix as Hakeem Nicks is likely to return as early as this week, but there’s no guarantee the veteran’s foot problems are behind him.
Hawkins is not much more than a role of the dice at this point. He doesn’t play a lot yet is averaging 69.3 yards per game and scored a touchdown in each of the last two weekends. If there’s a piece of dead weight on your roster, he could be worth stashing.
As for the quarterbacks, the three strongest pick-ups are Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, Minnesota’s Ponder and Detroit’s Shaun Hill. Fitzpatrick has played well lately, throwing eight touchdown passes over his last nine quarters. Don’t put a whole lot of stock in Jake Locker’s performance Sunday (378 passing yards, two touchdowns) as it came against a porous Detroit defense.
Ponder has become the new QB darling after his effort against the 49ers Sunday and, since most believe his best games are still ahead of him, he’s definitely worth a pick-up. Hill is a viable passer only if Matt Stafford doesn’t play. In relief of the injured Stafford Sunday, Hill was 10 for 13 for 172 yards and two scores.
Outside of Minnesota, tight end Kyle Rudolph is probably available in most leagues. He has three TDs in three games and Ponder looks for him a lot.
Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller also warrants a look. He’s never going to put up great yardage numbers but he has a knack for getting open in the end zone.